Author: Kate Elliott

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read two pretty good books which I’d like to share with you.

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Also in this series: Court of Fives
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 13 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott at BEA.  It’s been on my TBR for a while, but it’s only recently I read it.  The Poisoned Blade is the second book in a planned trilogy (I believe) and continues the story of Jessamy, a young woman caught between two cultures whose passion in life is playing the game of Fives.  In this second book, Jes is drawn into court politics and has to deal with the fallout of her decisions in book one.  I listened to The Poisoned Blade in audiobook format and very much enjoyed Georgia Dolenz’s narration.

What I liked

The characters.  I really liked our protagonist, Jessamy.  Her conflicts between her love for the Fives, her need to protect her family, the limitations placed on her by her heritage and her affection for Kal were expertly written.  

The pacing.  The Poisoned Blade didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome at all.  There were enough conficts and resolutions to keep me well satisfied.  I will certainly be picking up the final book in the trilogy.  Personally, I’ve found Elliott’s series lose steam as they go on and for that reason I’ve not finished many of them.  This one I do intend to finish.

The worldbuilding.  Continuing on from Court of Fives, Elliott has created a wonderful world for our characters to live in.  

What I didn’t like

There was little I didn’t enjoy about The Poisoned Blade.  It is my favourite of Elliott’s series.  

I gave it four stars out of five.

My review of Heartless Reading roundup – November 12th 2016Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Probably my most anticipated release of the year, Heartless is Lunar Chronicles author Marissa Meyer’s origin story of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts.  I really wanted to listen to this in audiobook format, however technical issues meant that it wasn’t available to Canadians on Audible.com for several days after release.  This was rather disappointing as i loved Rebecca Soler’s narration of the Lunar Chronicles.  I ended up reading it on my Kindle.

What I liked

The writing style.  I really loved Meyer’s, fresh, immediate writing style from the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless is no different.  This time it’s spiced with Lewis Caroll whimsy and the blend is magical. As a note, it probably does help if you’re familiar with both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

What I didn’t like

Somewhat predictable.  Of course, as an origin story, it’s tricky to be completely unpredictable.  There’s no escaping the fact that Catherine becomes the cold hearted Queen of Hearts.  However, certain other plot points were more easily guessed than I would have liked them to be.

Character development.  I felt this was better done in Fairest.  There was a more logical progression in Levana’s transformation to the wicked Queen than Cath’s becoming the Queen of Hearts.  Cath is much more of a positive character at the beginning, so her transformation was always going to be more difficult to plot.  At times I felt each step in Cath’s journey was a little unexpected, unearned or not wholly justified by the steps before.

In summary, I did enjoy Heartless, but I prefer the Lunar Chronicles.  I gave Heartless four stars out of five.

In other news:

I am currently obsessed with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Yes, I know, it’s not released until next week, but everything I’ve seen and heard about it indicates it’s going to be absolutely magical.  Rowling’s Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Sign me up!  I’m especially loving all the hints about Grindelwald and his rise to power in Europe.  There must be some wonderful stories to tell there. I can’t be the only bookworm who has planned a day off work around a book release, surely?  Not only is the movie released on November 18th, but we also get a book of the script and a LEGO Dimensions Story Pack!  I can’t wait!

Also this week I have been watching Netflix The Crown, the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and the first few years of her reign.  I’m enjoying it very much; Clare Foy has taken the role of the Queen, with former Doctor Who Matt Smith as Prince Philip,  Both are giving excellent portrayals and I recommend this series.

That’s all for now folks.  Back soon!

four-stars

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016

Good morning!  I’ve a lot to cover in this post vacation/hospitalisation reading roundup, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Cold Fire by Kate Elliott
Series: The Spiritwalker Trilogy #2
Format: eBook
Narrator: Luke Daniels, Tavia Gilbert, William DeMeritt
Pages: 672 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The first book I read was Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire, the second in her Spiritwalker trilogy, a young adult fantasy series.  I admit I really struggled with this book.  It is the middle book in the trilogy and I really felt that.  I liked the characters and the world and the dilemmas our protagonist had to navigate were interesting.  The whole answer a question with a question scenario was wonderfully done.  However, with no resolutions I still really had to force myself to complete this book, and I think it will be a while before I attempt book three.  I gave Cold Fire three stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan
Format: eBook
Pages: 176 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It is a slim companion volume to Riordan’s Magnus Chase series based on Norse mythology and provides a succinct and witty guide to the Norse pantheon.  If you’re familiar with Riordan’s style, this is more of the same.  Personally I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as say Greco-Roman so this was a very useful, very quick read.  Hotel Valhalla would be a great addition to your Riordon collection.  I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #2
Also in this series: 1000 Pieces of You
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 10 hours and 51 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray is probably the favourite of my holiday reads. It’s the second in Gray’s Firebird young adult fantasy series involving alternate dimensions.  Book two involves our protagonist, Marguerite, on a hunt across the dimensions to rescue fragments of her boyfriend’s soul, all while avoiding the traps of the evil Triad corporation. I’ve read quite a few books by Ms Gray now, and this one really confirms for me Gray as a very strong, solid storyteller.  The concept, worldbuilding, characters and pacing were all first class.  I listened to Ten Thousand Skies Above You in audiobook format, which was perfectly narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of this series in November, especially given the cliffhanger.  I gave Ten Thousand Skies Above You five stars out of five. 

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hunted by Kevin Hearne
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Length: 9 hours and 52 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Currently, I’m listening to Hunted, the sixth book in Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series, following druid Atticus O’Sullivan and his hound Oberon as they navigate the modern age and the mixed pantheons of our world.  These books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I always choose to listen to them in audiobook format thanks to Luke Daniels’ excellent narration.  You know a book is good when the author describes a meal – or in this case Oberon’s unfiltered enthusiasm for ribs – and you just have to go out and order some.  I’ve not yet finished the book, so not yet rated it but I am anticipating a high rating.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: William DeMeritt
Length: 9 hours and 28 minutes
Genres: Alternate History
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The final book I read on vacation – I’ve not quite finished it yet – is Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, an alternative history novel in which slavery still exists In some states in the modern US.  It follows a black bounty hunter searching for an escaped slave.  So far I’m really enjoying this.  I grew up a white woman in small town Scotland, so racial tensions are not something that were really familiar to me.  I’m listening to the book in audiobook format, narrated by William DeMeritt and the audio format works really well for the story.  I look forward to continuing it.  

Upcoming releases in September

As usual, September is a pretty hectic month in terms of book releases.  Here are the ones about which I’m most excited.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas.  This is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and it my most anticipated release of September.  Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series and it is so, so good.  It’s interesting; I’ve really not seen a great deal of publicity/spoilers/reviews for this so far.  I guess at this point the series stands up on its own.  I’m certainly looking forward to getting my hands on it.  Empire of Storms is released on September 6th.

Next up, we have The Swan Riders by Erin Bow.  This is the sequel to The Scorpion Rules, which I very much enjoyed.  The ending to book one was a real game changer, so I am excited to see how things develop in book two.  The Swan Riders is available for purchase from September 20th.

Scott Lynch’s continuation in his Gentlemen Bastards series, the Thorn of Emberlain, was scheduled for release on September 21st, but I read that it has been postponed to a 2017 release date.  I’ll admit I’m not too surprised. There had been no marketing or any other news in the last few weeks and the date has been postponed several times already.  I am disappointed – these are very very good stories – but I’m OK to wait if that’s what Mr Lynch needs to prepare the release properly.  I look forward to reading it next year.

On September 27th we have the release of Like a River Glorious, the second book in Rae Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy.  This is a young adult historical novel (with a dash of fantasy) set in the gold rush era.  The first book was excellent and I am very excited to read book two.  

Also on September 27th we can pick up Leigh Bardugo’s The Crooked Kingdom, her sequel to Six of Crows.  I really love the world Bardugo has created and the characters who inhabit it, so I’m highly anticipating this release.  I got a small sampler at BEA this year, but I’m waiting until I can read the whole thing.

That’s about all I have for this week.  Let me know in the comments which of these releases you’re most excited for.

three-stars

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – Review

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – ReviewCourt of Fives by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is a YA fantasy book and one that I found myself being sucked into even in the middle of a reading slump. I found the protagonists engaging and loved the world. I found it had a bit more substance than some YA fantasy novels.

What I liked

Cultural tensions. This is very much a tale of being caught between two cultures.  Our protagonist, Jessamy, is the child of a Saroese father and Efean mother and struggles to fit in with either culture.  Her father’s people, who are the conquerers of the Efeans, do not fully accept Jes as one of their own due to her mixed heritage yet her genteel upbringing closes her off from acceptance in her mother’s society.  Jes herself also struggles to find her place in her world.  The only time she can truly be herself is when she is training for the game the Court of Fives.  Although we do not live in a magical society, this theme may still strike a chord with many readers.

The Games.  I really enjoyed how the game of Court of Fives permeated the story to a great extent.  We see the games themselves a couple of times in the books, but it’s made clear that the skills Jes uses to become a successful Fives player are the same skills she and Kalliarkos will need to get out of certain situations and also to navigate Saroese politics.  I really loved that politics was hinted to be just a different version of the Court of Fives.

The magic and Jes’s journey.  The magic is very subtle in this book and is tied to the Efean culture.   At this point in her story Jes still struggles to accept her Efean heritage, so she has difficulty understanding the magic.  I expect that Jes’s journey in future books will be to embrace her cultural background, at which point the magic will become more and more prominent.  That I am excited to see. 

Little Women.  I read in the author’s notes that the characters of Jes and her sisters were based on those of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  I didn’t notice that at first, but once you do see it, it is very clear.  It was fun seeing those personality types in a completely different setting.  I am curious about what it means for the sisters’ character arcs in upcoming books and whether they will mirror those of Alcott’s.

Moral dilemmas.  Certain of the characters, including Jes, face moral dilemmas at certain points in the book.  I felt these were very well written and engaged my sympathy for the characters.  I am very interested to see how the decisions made will impact future character development and relationships.  I’d like to think Jes will have more understanding for her father in future.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  I wouldn’t say I disliked the Kalliarkos/Jes romance; it’s more a case of I’m waiting to see how it plays out in future books.  I was concerned that it felt a little too much Instalovey, which I don’t like.  If the parallels with Little Women hold true, the future for the couple doesn’t look too rosy.

In the end I really enjoyed Court of Fives and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I have an Advanced Reader Copy of the sequel, The Poisoned Blade, and I’m very excited to read it.  

four-stars

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott – Review

cold_magic
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott – ReviewCold Magic by Kate Elliott
Series: Spiritwalker Trilogy #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Charlotte Parry
Length: 17 hrs and 45 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott is the first in the Spiritwalker trilogy and tells the story of Cat Hassi Barahal as she comes to terms with the strange new path her life is taking her and the new powers she acquires.  Cold Magic has been on my TBR list for some time.  I’d picked it up several months back when it was on special offer on Kindle for $1.99, but never got round to reading it.  It moved up the list a few weeks ago when I read an intriguing article on the magic system, yet it never quite made it to the top.  Finally  a couple of weeks ago, Audible released it as an audiobook.  This is the first of the books to be released on Audible, so I picked it up to listen to during my nightshifts and it finally made it to the top of the list.  I’m very glad it did!

What I liked

Interesting themes.  Elliott explores some interesting themes in this novel.  One of the major ones is magic vs technology.  The society in which Cat lives is beginning to make progress with industrialisation and this engenders conflict with the powerful Mage Houses, the magic wielders.  It is notable that the brunt of the Cold Mages’ destructive power is directed at symbols of industry and innovation – an airship and a factory.  I look forward to seeing where this goes in the subsequent books

Another interesting theme is that of family and betrayal.  Cat feels deeply betrayed by the actions of her uncle and aunt as does Andevai’s family to some extent by his changed attitude since his becoming a Cold Mage.

Identity is another interesting theme explored in the series.  Cat strongly identifies with the Hassi Barahals who raised her, but after what she perceives as their betrayal she is no longer certain about who she is, especially given the new powers she discovers. When she meets her half brother Rory, her identity is thrown into even more confusion.  This theme is even more apparent in the character of Andevai who is torn between his identity as a member of a poor but loving family and his status as a Cold Mage.  It appears he is struggling to fit in with either community.

The worldbuilding.  Ms Elliott’s blog is entitled “I make up worlds”  and it’s clear this is something she very much enjoys.  The worldbuilding in Cold Magic is excellent.  I enjoyed the alternative history variation of our world that she has created.  I especially enjoyed the intelligent trolls – one of whom is a solicitor!

I understand one of the lynchpins of the series is intended to be the relationship between Cat and her cousin Bee, whom she loves like a sister.  It’s clear that they are very close, and protecting each other is a major motivation for the two.  However, the cousins don’t spend much time together in this book so it doesn’t come across as strongly as it might.  I suspect this may be more prominent in the next two books.

The narration.  I listened to the audiobook narrated by Charlotte Parry.  A poor or mediocre narrator adds little to a book other than saving you the trouble of reading it for yourself, offering little more than the Kindle’s robotic text to speech.  A great narrator, on the other hand, really brings the characters to life.  Ms Parry is of the second variety.  It was easy to tell which character was speaking by the voice she used, and she picked up the stage directions perfectly (he said coldly, for example).  Here is a sample.

      Cold Magic

What I didn’t like

The overall story arc.  At this point, I’m not entirely certain what our protagonist’s goals are other than self preservation and what the consequences might be if she fails to achieve them.  I hope this is clarified in the subsequent books.

All in all, I very much enjoyed Cold Magic and gave it four stars out of five

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four-stars
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